Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Stefanie Roberts Newman, center, stands outside with Isabella Prylo, left, and Niranjana Magesh, right, as they deliver care baskets to hospital staff.

Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Stefanie Roberts Newman, center, stands outside with Isabella Prylo, left, and Niranjana Magesh, right, as they deliver care baskets to hospital staff.

Photo provided by Amy Strauss, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital


Farmington High seniors donate care baskets to hospital staff

By: Jonathan Shead | C&G Newspapers | Published October 20, 2020

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FARMINGTON/WEST BLOOMFIELD — The impacts of COVID-19 on health care workers have been immeasurable, but Farmington High School seniors Isabelle Prylo and Niranjana Magesh wanted to make sure staff at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital knew they were appreciated.

When Prylo and Magesh created The Phoenix Foundation, an organization focused on mental health, around the same time the pandemic began in March, their first project focused on those whose mental and physical health has been in jeopardy: frontline workers.

“We saw the toll on health care workers, and how they were struggling and that there wasn’t enough attention on them,” Prylo said. “Everyone was wishing them well on social media, but we felt there could be a little more action. We thought it would be a good idea to make them the baskets to encourage them to keep going.”

Raising funds through GoFundMe for supplies, the two seniors put together roughly 15 care baskets full of snacks — chips, popcorn, beef jerky and other nonperishable items; stress toys; phone chargers; mints and gum; hand lotion; lip balm; and cases of Gatorade and water to deliver to the hospital. Thank-you cards written by members of the community were included in the baskets, as well.

“People are dying, and they have to see the effects of that every single day, which isn’t easy for someone,” Magesh said. “We thought they could use some happiness and appreciation for everything they’re doing.”

When it came time to deliver the baskets to the hospital and to staff, Chief Nursing Officer Stefanie Roberts Newman said her team was “very excited.”

“Any time you give them food or trinkets, they’re happy,” she said.

Roberts Newman said the baskets were a selfless, heartfelt gesture.

The boost to staff’s morale was evident after receiving the baskets, Roberts Newman added, saying that “the smiles on their faces said it all.”

“One of the syndromes we talked about after the real height of COVID-19 was that feeling from the nurses that they were no longer heroes to people, and I think this shows the nurses that they’re always heroes to someone out there,” she said, adding that the baskets gave them the push to keep going. “I think it let the nurses know that they’re not forgotten. What they did and what they continue to do still matters. I think that was probably the most important part.”

The Phoenix Foundation was created to address mental health, an issue Prylo and Magesh believe is not addressed enough. Showing appreciation to these health care workers, however, was more personal to them than even that.

“I feel like society really owes a debt to the health care workers. They’ve done so much for us, and I’ve seen that personally,” Prylo said. “About 10 months ago, my mom passed away at the hospital from cancer, and I never got to see her, but I heard so many great stories about the nurses who took care of her. They braided her hair and made her feel really comfortable.

“I know that was pretty hard for them, so I just wanted to thank them, because I know they go above and beyond every day.”

For Magesh, who envisions herself one day as a doctor working in developing countries, she felt this opportunity could shed light on how others could make an impact and help change the world, as well.

The pandemic and school closures have limited the students’ ability to get their peers involved, but once they return to school, they’re hoping to have other students join their foundation and help.

“As for future projects, we’d like to get as many people involved as possible,” Magesh said. “We’re still in the process of wrapping this project up completely so we can give our full focus to our next project, which is still in the planning phase.”

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